Self Build Horror – Thailand – Part 6

March 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Welcome back the the Self Build Horror – Thailand.  This is the true story of a guy who built a 4 Bedroom Pool Villa in Phuket, Thailand. In this final part we’ll find out what goes wrong and how one man found himself penniless and hiding from people who wanted him dead.  The following is the account of events in his actual words.

Internal Rendering Complete

Internal Rendering Complete

Week 17 & 18 – During these weeks I had to keep out of the way as much as possible. I was still on-site but it meant that I had to be careful that I didn’t get in the way.  There was even more people on-site, some where working on the Pool, some were starting on the building of the perimeter walls, while others where busy finishing the internal and external rendering.

The guys knew that the windows would be arriving soon and so had to have all the rendering and plaster work complete before they arrived.

Ridge Tiles on and Roof Complete

Ridge Tiles on and Roof Complete

The roof finally got finished during the week and once the Ridge Tiles were on it really did make the villa look so much better.

Plaster work - Front of Villa

Plaster work - Front of Villa

Week 19 – When I turned up on Monday morning it was obvious the guys doing the plaster work had been working non-stop over the Sunday and working late.  The font of the villa was now a brilliant while with beautiful fresh plaster work.  It really did look wonderful and the transformation was just incredible.

The whole thing was set off with the roof tiles and the carport being finished and the building was beginning to look like a home.  I had started to advertise the villa for sale and had a few people come and view.  Two people in particular made appointments to come back once the villa was completed, which was due in another 10 weeks.

Front Side View of Villa

Front Side View of Villa

When driving down the road the villa looked great from all angles.

Windows being installed

Windows being installed

The windows arrived early!  I was told this was not a really big problem, even though the plaster work hadn’t been done on the internal walls.  I was assured the windows could be easily masked off and that no harm would come to them.  I had chosen a ‘Green Tint’ glass.  The glass was designed to reflect the outside heat, so this would make it cheaper to run the air conditioning.

Windows and Patio Doors

Windows and Patio Doors

It took just 3 days to install all the windows and french doors.  With the reflection of the ‘Green Tint’ glass against the pure white of the plaster work the villa looked just fantastic.

Front View of Villa

Front View of Villa

Front view of the villa with the walls plastered and windows installed.

While I was outside taking photographs I could see my wife and the architect inside having , what I can only describe as a heated discussion.  I wondered in the Villa to find out what was going on, only to have the architect pass me and in very curt words said “Your wife no good.”

Obviously I needed to have a chat with my wife so we drove home and discussed the situation.  She dropped a bomb shell by saying that we couldn’t pay the final installment of the build – which was why the architect was unhappy.  I was more than a little upset as I had given her the final installment to give to the architect just two days earlier… so where was the money?  She explained that the last owners of the land had not paid the tax on it and so it was now our responsibility – by the time she paid that and the fines for late payment all the money had gone.  I wanted to know why we should have to pay, this should be the responsibility of the previous owner.  I got the usual Thai excuses that they can’t be found and that’s the way things are done in Thailand.  One thing I’ve learned over the years of living in Thailand is not to trust a word that a Thai speaks.

We were now stuck and we didn’t have enough money to finish the villa.  I decided to try and sell the villa as it was, with a heavy reduction in the asking price.  After nearly a month we had no one interested and my wife then asked me if it was possible to borrow what we needed, to finish the villa, from a friend of mine.  I really didn’t like the idea of it but it did make sense. We could finish the villa, sell it and pay my friend back , with interest.

My friend graciously agreed to lend us the money and even though we were good friends I made sure that a legal contract was made, just so everything was clear and in writing.  My wife left the next morning with the money to go and pay the architect.  On her return I asked her if everything was OK and when would they be back on-site.  I also asked her if she remember to get the receipt for our records as asked before she left.  She told me that she had the receipt and would put it with the rest of the paper work and that the architect would resume work in the next couple of days.

Each day I visited the site for the next week there was no sign of the architect or the builders working.  I was getting really upset and asked my wife to call him and ask him what was going on.  She made a call while I was there, not that I would have known, the writing on her phone was all in Thai and she spoke only Thai… for all I know, she could have been speaking to her sister or mum.  After hanging up the phones she told me that he had been caught up on another job and couldn’t start back for another week.  I was not happy!  I did point out that we had a contract to pay our friend back, so the longer the delays the less chances we had of meeting that contract deadline.

The next morning I received a phone call from a Thai woman, who spoke very good English, making an inquiry about my villa for sale.  I was pretty pleased and explained to her that she could buy it now, at a reduced rate (I wanted to pay my friend off as soon as I could) or wait until it was finished and then pay a higher price.  She said she was keen to buy  it now and could we meet on-site to discuss it.  My wife had already left the house and I tried to call her but she didn’t answer.  I would have much preferred it if she had been with me on-site to explain in Thai if necessary.  However, I wasn’t about to loose the chance of a sale and so I set off on my own.

To my complete surprise, when I arrived on-site, I was met by the lady and my architect.  Apparently is was all a ruse to get me to come on-site and she was simply acting as a translator for the architect.  She then explained that my wife had not given the architect the last payment to complete the villa.  I told her that I had given her the money just two days ago and that she told me the architect had to finish another job before he could resume work.  Apparently this was not the case and so the questions going through my mind were:

1. Where is my wife? I tried to call her again, but she was not answering her phone and;

2. What had she done with the money we had borrowed off my friend?

I apologized to the architect and said that I would get to the bottom of all of this and sort things out within the next few days.  As I was driving home all the horror stories began playing in my mind of all the other foreigners you hear about in Thailand falling foul to their Thai wives.  It wasn’t uncommon to hear of foreign husbands loosing everything they owned and in some cases even murdered by their wives for their assets.  I shock my head… we had been married for 4 years and we were happy together.  We were very much a couple, we played golf together and we never really went anywhere without each other.  I just refused to believe that she would do something like this to me, and more importantly to us.  The villa was to be our future together and there just were not any signs of her being under-handed in any way.

I arrived home but my wife was nowhere to be seen.  I tried to call again, but again she was not picking up the phone.  I tried on several other occasions but without success.  It was about 2.30pm when my phone rang.  It was my friend, whom I had borrowed money from.  I answered the call… it turned out that my wife had gone to see him in the hope of borrowing more money.  He asked me if I knew anything about it.  I told him honestly that I had no idea and then explained what had happened earlier that day with the architect.  He and I were both shocked and as we were discussing possible reasons when my wife turned up back home.  I told my friend that she was home and that I would call him back later with news of what was going on.  He was understandably concerned, considering the sum of money I borrowed was US$10,000.

My wife strolled in with a smile on her face, kissed me and asked if I wanted to eat.  I was in complete shock, knowing what I knew then, and yet by her actions, demeanor and the way she spoke you would never of have guessed in a million years anything was wrong… what she didn’t know of course what that I had been on-site with the architect and on the phone with my friend.

I thought I would approach all of this slowly so I started off by asking her why she didn’t pick up the phone.  She simply said that she was busy with all the papers at the land office and forgot to call me back.  Then I dropped the bomb shell on her and asked…. Why did you go and see our friend to borrow more money? She just looked at me and then I asked another question… Why didn’t you pay the architect?  … It was the answer to these two questions that ended our marriage, left me penniless and the worst was to come.

It turned out that she had been gambling.  She had used the money, that we borrowed, to pay off one of her gambling debts but she owed more.  She had already refinanced our vehicle (which I had paid in full and in cash for). The vehicle, she persuaded me at the time of purchase, should go in her name otherwise we would have to pay more tax on it if it went in my name (a foreigners name), which the dealership told me was true.  I found out, from what she told me, that she had, within three weeks of owning the vehicle, refinanced it to pay off a gambling debt and then refinance it again to pay off another gambling debt.  Both debts were over US$25,000.

It gets worse… during the build she had gambled over US$60,000 and having no way of repaying it put the villa up as security to borrow the money from a loan shark. The interest payments were over US$6,000 a month and that was ONLY the interest payments, we would still need to find the US$60,000 she owed and she was already 3 month in debt to the interest payments.

The only money I had left was about US$2,000 in the bank … just enough to get me on a plane back home… or so I thought.  When I told her I was leaving to get my money out of the bank she then explained that she had taken my ATM card out of my wallet for several nights while I slept and cleaned out the account.

So there I stood. The only thing I owned was the shirt on my back.  The home I was living in was rented and I couldn’t afford to  pay it.  I was furious and I then threatened to go to the Police.  She told me that would not be a good idea… it was the Police that she owed the gambling debt too, but a few other people were also looking for her.  All in told, she owed over US$130,000 and she was telling all her creditors not to worry because she was married to a foreigner who has money.

That night I didn’t sleep at all.  My wife, on the other hand didn’t have any problem sleeping.  After all told I had exactly US$1.73 to my name and at 44 years old, it’s not a pleasant thought.  All my plans and dreams were gone and I was stuck, with nowhere to go.  I can’t really explain the feelings and the thoughts I was having, but is was a mixture of fear, disappointment and even raw hatred.  With that said I didn’t want to see any harm come to my wife but I didn’t want her around me either.  She wanted to stay and try and work things out, but the old saying “Scratch a Liar, Find a Thief” came to mind and there was no way I could ever trust here again.

So, here I was, penniless and about to be homeless.  Unless I could find enough money to pay off all the debts I would loose everything.  I held the telephone in my hands for over an hour thinking about who I could call for help – there were a few people but I really didn’t want to burned them with my problems.  I finally called my mother and she was understandably very upset.  She rallied around and managed to find enough money to pay back my friend – he was my biggest concern and I had given him my word that I would repay him.  This was at least one thing off my mind but it did wipe my mother’s saving out.  I felt so bad.

They say that when the chips are down you really find out who your friends are and you can trust me when I say that no truer words have ever been spoken.  I ended up contacting eleven people.  Four of whom I knew would be able to afford to bail me out without any problems.  I didn’t just ask for cash I was offering a deal – enough to bail me out and then when I sold the villa I would give them their money back plus 50% of the profits from the sale of the villa.  I thought that if someone was good enough to help then this would be the decent thing to do.

After eleven phone calls I had been turned down eleven times.  Some where very sympathetic but weren’t in the position to help while others showed no real support other than saying I should go to the police.  On an average week I would normally get plenty of phone calls from my friends – whether it was asking me to come to dinner or play golf.  From the point of making the last phone call I didn’t ever receive any phone calls from any of my friends again.  I guess they just didn’t want to be burdened with my problems, although in all honesty I would never of mentioned it to them again.

I did get one phone call from a guy I hadn’t spoken to in over 2 years.  He’s a nice old fella and he once asked for my help and I was in a position to do so at the time.  He repaid the money that he borrowed and I never thought any more about it.  When I answered the call he told me he had heard what had gone on and then told me to pack my bags as there was a spare room waiting for me.  I was just so grateful.

Before moving I did have a few things to clear up and my wife decided to leave because of all the threatening phone calls she was receiving.  She finally left me alone in the house we were renting.  Over the next 5 days I had received no less than 35 phone calls, each looking for money.  On 23 of these occasions I was threatened that if I didn’t come up with the money then I would be killed.

Unless you’ve ever been and stayed in Thailand for any length of time it’s difficult to understand how things work here.  Life is cheap and a Thai will think nothing of killing someone over money.  9/10 the killings are contracted out and 8/10 it’s police who are paid to  do the killing.  There have been hundreds of cases where foreigners have been murdered for money here so I knew the treats were not idle.

I slept even less in the last few days of staying at the house I was renting.  I kept seeing a gold pick-up truck passing my house. I lived in a very quiet area and this was very unusual. On the day of the move my friend came over to help me finish the packing.  As we were doing so the gold pick-up truck appeared again and this time stopped.  Two Thais got out and approached the gate and called my name.  When I went outside I could see both were armed and both were police.  This was worrying.  The two guys spotted my friend and obviously decided that shooting me wouldn’t be a good idea, unless they killed us both and again, I was extremely worried.  One of them asked me where my wife was. I told them, honestly, I didn’t know.  They then told me that she owed them over US$25,000 and had come to collect – apparently they had called her and she told them to go to the house and collect it from me.

I told them the whole story and they did seem genuinely sorry for my situation but the bottom line was they still wanted their money.  The only thing I could do was to tell them that I would try.  They took my phone number and told me to keep in touch otherwise things would take a turn for the worst.  What amazed me, after they left, is that they obviously didn’t spot that I was packing. I waited an hour before packing my friends car and then left.

Over the space of the next few weeks I was getting lots of phone calls.  I had now lost the villa to the loan sharks she had borrowed from, so there was nothing left.  I did speak to my Embassy but the only thing they could do was to recommend a firm of lawyers.  They gave me three to contact and I did just that.  After I told them that it was the police who were involved all declined to take on my case. Self preservation is a high priority in Thailand, which is why very little ever goes to court.  Most people with financial problems generally solve it with a gun.  At one time Thailand was out ranking Columbia in gun crime and again, killing here is a daily occurrence.

I ended up throwing my old sim card away and getting a new number on a Pay-as-You -Go, which is the normal practice here.  At least now I wasn’t getting any phone calls and I began sleeping better at night knowing that no one knew where I was.

With no money I wasn’t able to travel back home.  I certainly couldn’t get a job here because that requires a work permit and then I would be easy to track.  Over the last few years I’ve been running a small website from my room.  My goal now, my only goal, is to raise sufficient funds from the business so that I can leave Thailand for good and I continue to work every day in the pursuit of this goal.

My now, ex-wife, I heard was dating another foreigner.  I just hope that the poor guy doesn’t end up like me.  Throughout all of what happened she never showed much in the way of remorse.  She even phoned me a couple of times to see if I had any money to give her.  One thing I have learned is that Thais generally care about one thing and one thing only… MONEY and it doesn’t matter how they get it or whom they get it from as long as they do get it.

I’ve never been one for quitting and I remain optimistic that one day I’ll be able to leave here and put this chapter of my life behind me… once and for all.

So there you have the conclusion of the Self Build Horror in Thailand.  We did ask if he would ever build again, to which is told us he would, but not in Thailand.  Feel free to ask any questions or leave comments.  We’ll pass the questions on and see what answers can be given.

If you are thinking about building a home, we wouldn’t recommend Thailand as a destination.  The laws in Thailand do not allow a foreigner to own land, so you will need to put the land title deed in a Thais name or form a company.  Note that if you form a company then as a foreigner you will only be allowed to own 49% of that company so again, 51% will be held in a Thais name.  This goes the same if you are just buying a house.  It can be extremely perilous owning anything in Thailand and our advice, especially what we have learned, is that if you must live in Thailand then only rent and NEVER buy.

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